Alistair Macdonald was a surveyor who worked in several countries in the former Empire. He was employed by the Directorate of Colonial Surveys, which was a unit of the Colonial Office set up in 1946 with a remit to carry out geodetic and topographic surveys. Surveyors served a tour of 9 months at a time, and spent most of this under canvas on safari.
During the late 1950s, Macdonald worked in Uganda then the Bahamas, using his camera to record scenes around him, and also aspects of his technical surveying work. In 1959, he is present at the Royal Visit of HRH Prince Philip to the Bahamas, where he films the cavalcade. During the early 1960s, Macdonald travelled through East and South East Asia, then returned to Africa to undertake surveying work in Nyasaland (Malawi), Bechuanaland (Botswana) and Zambia.